Other than serving as a decorative centerpiece, carved fruit is a crafty way to tempt children into eating more fruit. As with any artistic project, planning is half the battle. Use an edible coloring marker, if necessary, to draw the required shape on the fruit peel, and work with delicate cuts using a small, sharp paring knife for detail and a carving knife for removing larger sections.
Creations for Children
Some fruits have an intrinsic shape that lends itself to an animal’s form with a minimum of work, which children can do themselves. The naturally tapered cone of a strawberry, for example, can be turned into a mouse’s nose, using chocolate chips for the eyes and nose by working them gently into the strawberry’s skin, and using licorice shoelaces for the tail. Almond flakes will slip easily into the skin on either side to serve as ears. Use pears in a similar way, allowing children to paint on whiskers and eyes with a fine brush dipped in melted chocolate.
Animals can be built relatively easily out of fruit segments, but be careful to point out those that are for display purposes only, as there may be inedible parts holding the animal together. Create the leathery underbelly of a tortoise by cutting a mango around its flatter middle and prizing out the stone with a paring knife. The hollow can be filled with diced mango from the discarded half. For the short, stubby legs, thread pineapple cubes or grapes onto sticks of dry spaghetti and pierce the mango skin with the free end. A section of banana with the peel still on becomes the head, allowing you to draw on two small eyes with edible marker pens for culinary use. For a dramatic flourish, cut an elliptical section of pineapple skin to place over the mango top, instantly evoking the pattern of a tortoise shell.
Apples and pears both have the right texture for carving detailed pieces and can be cut into wafer-thin segments to form wings or feathers. Cantaloupe and watermelon offer opportunities for carving hollowed-out animals for holding a fruit salad, while the watermelon’s play of colors among green skin, white pulp and vivid red interior makes for some creative possibilities. A pineapple’s golden skin and shock of green leaves can be embellished with smaller fruit to imitate a head. Cutting into fruit sets discoloration in motion, particularly with apples and bananas. Soaking the pieces in lemon water or pineapple juice, or spritzing the creation with lemon juice, can slow down the rate of browning.
With a steady hand and a paring knife, a watermelon has endless possibilities. To keep them steady, you will need to cut away a section of the skin to make a flat base, after which they can be hollowed out and refilled with other fruit. Mark out the desired animal shape on the skin with edible marker pen and slice the skin away, creating the form by removing the flesh rather than building it. The watermelon doesn’t require much force to work on, and it should be relatively easy to cut out a segment in the shape of a mouth, if making a shark’s head for example, after which jagged teeth can be cut out of the exposed white pulp beneath the green skin. For birds, score the skin with swirls or lines to give a feathered effect.
References and ResourcesParents: Play with Your Food
National Watermelon Promotion Board: Watermelon Carving
The New York Times: Food Stuff; Write on Your Cake and Eat It, Too